About 200 people representing coastal tribes across the Olympic Peninsula marched in downtown Forks on Sunday for the national day of awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

About 200 people representing coastal tribes across the Olympic Peninsula marched in downtown Forks on Sunday for the national day of awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Forks march raises awareness of missing, murdered indigenous women

Peninsula tribes gather to stress dangers faced by many

FORKS — Cindy Claplanhoo carried a photo of her sister, Valerie Claplanhoo, as she and 200 other people from coastal tribes across the Olympic Peninsula marched through downtown Forks for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women day of awareness Sunday.

The march was only one day after the celebration of life for Valerie Claplanhoo, who was found killed in her Sequim apartment Jan. 2. No arrests have been made.

“It just doesn’t seem real and we keep hoping for closure, but we’re all together and we’re all strong,” Cindy Claplanhoo said as she marched through Forks.

“I know the Sequim Police Department is doing everything they can to help us. We just keep hoping for a good outcome.”

She was not alone Sunday. Family and friends of other missing and murdered tribal members across the Olympic Peninsula participated in the event, which was hosted by the Hoh Tribe.

Cindy Claplanhoo participated in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women march in Forks on Sunday holding a framed picture of her sister, Valerie Claplanhoo, who was killed in Sequim on Jan. 2. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Cindy Claplanhoo participated in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women march in Forks on Sunday holding a framed picture of her sister, Valerie Claplanhoo, who was killed in Sequim on Jan. 2. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

“We’re all here today because we believe a message has to be sent that this stuff has to stop,” said Phillip Sifuentes, Hoh Tribal Methamphetamine and Suicide Prevention Initiative coordinator. “Still, to this day, you hear people say it’s not that big of a problem … but it is and people need to know this can’t happen any more.

“Us being here together, singing our songs, painting our faces, holding our signs and marching together is really going to help that message be sent that we’re not going to put up with it anymore.”

Sifuentes, whose wife is a member of the Hoh Tribe, called on tribes and communities to work together to tackle the issue.

“Before the lines in the sand were drawn we were all one people,” he said. “Just because someone is from up the coast or from a different place inland … that doesn’t make us different.”

“The people who are committing these atrocities … want the divide, but we have to stop the divide and stand up as people and unite together as one nation.”

The family of Valerie Claplanhoo, a Makah woman who was killed in Sequim on Jan. 2, speaks during the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women march in Forks on Sunday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

The family of Valerie Claplanhoo, a Makah woman who was killed in Sequim on Jan. 2, speaks during the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women march in Forks on Sunday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

People representing the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Quileute Tribe, Hoh Tribe, Makah Tribe, city of Forks, Forks Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office spoke during the event.

“Every year, hundreds of families are impacted throughout the nation in dealing with the hardship of missing and murdered indigenous women,” said Quileute Vice Chair Zack Jones. “By holding events such as today we can bring our communities together and by joining hands and raising awareness we can take the first steps in protecting one of our most valuable gifts on Earth: our women.”

Native American women face a disproportionate amount of violence when compared to others in the United States.

They face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The National Institute of Justice said that 84 percent of Native American women have experienced violence.

Vivian Lee, a Hoh Tribal Elder and storyteller, tells the 200 people who gathered for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women march in Forks on Sunday of the violence she has experienced. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Vivian Lee, a Hoh Tribal Elder and storyteller, tells the 200 people who gathered for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women march in Forks on Sunday of the violence she has experienced. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin told the crowd that the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office seeks to hold those responsible for violence against women and indigenous peoples responsible for their actions.

“We’re doing everything we can to find the killer of Valerie; we’re still looking for the killer of George David; and we also worked on the Isaac Ward case,” Devlin said. “This is something that’s near and dear to us.”

Hoh Tribal Council Member Ricky Barragan, whose grandmother was murdered, thanked those who attended for raising awareness about missing and murdered indigenous women.

Afterward, Barragan said he feels it is important for youth to begin to take the initiative and raise awareness.

Ricky Barragan, a member of the Hoh Tribal Council, drums at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women march in Forks on Sunday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Ricky Barragan, a member of the Hoh Tribal Council, drums at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women march in Forks on Sunday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

“There’s issues that haven’t been addressed in our community and it’s been kept on the down low and under the radar,” he said.

Barragan said he is thankful to the city of Forks for allowing the event and said he looks forward to improving relationships between Native people.

Barragan said his grandmother was killed while he was young and that he didn’t have the opportunity to get to know her well.

“She got taken from me at a very young age,” he said. “I didn’t get to experience her as I was growing up, but I do remember her kindness, her kisses and her prayers that watch over me.”

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

Tribal members drum at the march Sunday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Tribal members drum at the march Sunday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

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